Berfrois

In Memory of Derek Walcott

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by Daniel Bosch

I

Cover Her Face.

If I take my grief to the beach
And scan my blurred reflection

As I slip it into a yellow Walkman—
If I hear only arias,

Only your words’ permanent surf—
If I navigate the rectilinear

Terrycloth islands of Revere,
Ignore the cold water, the sorry-ass

Pilgrimage of pale, bony
Shadows, the nylon umbrellas’

Eerie, radial spectra,
The glint of my phony

Ray Bans—if I drag my empty leash
Past these bodies made of milk and honey

While gulls squabble over reddening girls,
Over turf, over nothing, but under every plane

That screams into Logan, its tail swaying
Left-right-left, like a runway model’s—

It may be possible
To think that the shaded easel up ahead

Is you’re A-frame shelter here,
That it holds a final painting, a watercolor,

That the Pitons won’t find their shallow
Images, sharp memories, too hard to swallow,

And that you, who have tuned out
Boom-boxes and radios,

Will see me mouthing, adios.

 

II 

Mine Eyes Dazzle.

I spoke with Helen.  We forgot the time.
The face that launched your thousand pages wore
A caul of wrinkles beautiful as rhyme.

Jim Crow’s feet laced her eyes, and when she told
Of her long captive voyage in the hold
Of your imagination, we forgot the time.

We spoke of other men, the pain of snow,
The greenest islands glinting in your eye.
Her caul of wrinkles testified. Your rhyme

Rang in her voice, and so did her disdain
For those who seem to feel another’s pain.
(One’s own page should suffice.)  Then Helen asked

If I adhered to your career advice:
“Be professional:  Live off your wife.
This is a calling.”  Wrinkled, beautiful,

She smiled to think how foolish you had been
Ever to let her speak with other men.
I spoke with Helen.  I will not forget
Her wrinkled face, her beauty like a net.

 

III

She died young.

When his brakelights embarrass St. Mary’s street,
My cabbie kills the radio, turns up the heat,
And Charon or cherub, idling in the glare,
Waits for his fare.

Pastoral cold.  I read between the blinds,
But infer no welcome:  that was in my mind.
My eggshell trochees toward the cab aren’t planned,
And yet they scan.

I speak to the mirror:  “Take me to Logan.”
The reflection grunts assent.  He hasn’t spoken,
Yet I have heard his accent, and knowing my islands,
Read his silence.

No man is insulated.  From the tick of the meter,
From winter’s dry grasp, from the gasp of the heater
Or the way a backseat horizontalizes,
Cuts down to size.

Apostrophes of steam mark cold contractions.
Boston’s concrete begs for spare abstractions.
At five a.m., its stoplights mimic thinking
With bright blinking.

A full stop on Commonwealth.  Pushing a cart, your
Narrow, shapka’d figure makes its departure
From the median—taking its time,
Like grief or rhyme,

Making little scarves with each exhaled breath
That do not warm him.  He looks scared to death,
An exile who knows his hemisphere’s
Too big.  Up here,

An island is a platform where you pause
To look both ways before you safely cross,
Where you realize you’ve caused the world to wait—
To hesitate—

Where though you know you haven’t got the power
To stretch those seconds into minutes, your
Ambition takes a step into the street
To find its beat.

This poem was first published in 1998 as “Elegy” in the journal Salamander, and was republished in the book Crucible.